5-12-15 - Yours, Mine and Ours

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was Yours, Mine and Ours, the true story of a blended family (a widower with 10 children married a widow with 8, and they had 2 more…). I got the biggest kick out of the shenanigans in that household. (The book was made into a film with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball in 1968, and then a more forgettable remake in 2005.)

None of which has absolutely anything to do with this week’s gospel, except that the way Jesus talks to his heavenly Father about his disciples always reminds me of the title:

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours."

This prayer for Jesus’ disciples, like his instructions to them which we explored the past two weeks, is elliptical, moving forward like a tide in overlapping waves. In this first part, it’s hard to track who belongs to whom. Jesus refers to his disciples as “those you gave me,” those entrusted to him by the Father. “They were yours, and you gave them to me…”

What if clergy more often thought of their congregants in this way – as those who belong to God, entrusted into their care for a time? And the same for the way a congregation might view its pastor. And a wife, her husband; and parents their children; and teachers their students, doctors their patients, stockbrokers their clients. How different the web of human relationships would be if we all viewed the people in our lives as belonging to God first and foremost, and only secondarily and in a very limited way, to us. How much heartache might be avoided.

Regarding other people as belonging to God, we might treat them with more reverence and care. Maybe this is why Jesus was so easy sitting with lepers and outcasts, the greedy and the deranged – because he knew they were God’s precious creatures and therefore worthy of honor. He healed not to make them more acceptable; he healed because wholeness more perfectly reflected their status as God’s beloved.

Periodically I encounter the advice to “Remember you are a child of God” or words to that effect. That is an valuable spiritual practice; most of us would be kinder to ourselves if we lived it. Today, though, I invite us to turn it around. Think of a person or group or type of person that you find it hard to even see anything good in; to respect, let alone love. Call that person to mind. And then overlay this message over that picture, like one of those Facebook memes: “Belongs to God.” How does that change the way you regard that person? Try it every day this week. Note what feelings come up, and pray through them.

Jesus ended with a statement of mutual possessing: “All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.” We are invited into that mutual belonging, in this gigantic blended family we call the human race, beloved beyond measure by the God who created, redeemed and sustains us. We continue to bring Jesus glory as we treat everyone around us as both ours and God’s.

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